By Amanda Carl, Reece Jamison, Sean Heffron
On Sunday, February 5, a hiker found the body of 25-year-old Brandon Price, an Estill Springs native, just off the Fiery Gizzard trail. The next morning, the hiker reported the sighting. South Cumberland State Park rangers responded, followed shortly by police officers and a fire rescue team.
Price was wearing sneakers, jeans, and a hooded sweatshirt when his body was found. The temperature had dropped below freezing in the area during his disappearance. His body was transported to Nashville for an autopsy. Price’s cause of death is unknown; however, investigators have not ruled out foul play.
Price was reported missing by his family on January 6 and was last seen at his house in Tracy City. The ensuing police investigation, composed of ground and aerial searches, could not locate him. Family and friends reached out to the community via Facebook to have people on the lookout.
Coalmont City’s fire department is closest to the South Cumberland State Park, but Sewanee receives many of the rescue calls during work hours because of their student volunteers. Just under 20 Sewanee volunteer firefighters, four of them non-student members, mobilized when the dispatch arrived at 1:00 p.m. They reached the trail at approximately 2:00 p.m.
One Coalmont member witnessed the recovery. 45 people took turns, five or six at a time, at carrying the one-wheeled stretcher in shifts up the trail for one and a half hours in the foggy drizzle.
“Parts of [the trail] were pretty bad. We used an overgrown logging road for the first half, low trees and large rocks made it difficult to get the body back up, but on the lower half we were on hiking trails. The second half going up was really steep,” remarked Dunn Fout (C’17), a volunteer for Sewanee’s Fire Department.
On November 7, 2016, a few months before, a woman fell to her death near where Price’s body was found. The 65-year-old woman from Nashville was hiking the Day Loop of the Fiery Gizzard Trail when “she lost her balance and fell to the bottom,” according to Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum, who led the investigation of her death. Shrum did not suspect foul play and theorized that “she may have been looking over the edge of the trail” to explain how the accident occurred.